When I was given the news of my redundancy over a teleconference, on the 13th October 2015, as my colleagues and I huddled around a small boardroom table, my initial thought was, ‘Here we go again.’ I had lost my job twice before, including on the second occasion, in extremely acrimonious and spirit-crushing circumstances, which you can read about in more detail on my personal blog (www.ashleyvaughan.blogspot.com), only a little over 12 months previously. However, this redundancy had a whole different feel to previous occasions, due in part to the nature of the termination. I was part of a project that was being discontinued, and received my P45 communally with 20 or so others, so as such I was free of the feelings of shame and complicity linked with the decision. This helped to overcome the stigma of unemployment and the dread of another impending visit to the obdurate and austere wasteland of nefariousness, commonly known as the Job Centre, with the likes of which even the Swamps of Dagobah appear comparatively hospitable.
Free, as I was, of the shackles of guilt and expectation to provide for my family – God had shown me previously that HE is our provider, not me – I very quickly began to see the potentially heinous communique much more as an opportunity than a cause for grave concern. After all, I’d been here before, and in much more perilous circumstances. But moreover, I felt a gentle prompting of the Holy Spirit, lightly encouraging me to trust. I left the meeting upbeat, positive and absorbed in possibility.
When I broke the news to my family, it was from this place of contentment to the point of excitement. We resolved to trust God for everything we need, and to help encourage us as and when this inevitably became difficult, we made a list of all the ways, big and small, that God was true to his promise to supply all our needs. The Bible is full of references to the Father’s goodness, trustworthiness and ability, nay desire, to provide and bless. We decided it was time to take these many promises at face value and put out money where our mouths were. Literally. In the natural sense, with three young, growing children and a fourth on the way, Christmas around the corner and plenty of other bills to pay, I would have been forgiven for being worried, fearful, despairing. Yet, what I experienced was the opposite of those emotions. Yes, on some days, both then and now, I fear what the future holds, but in resolving to trust God, I have to make a decision each time that happens to speak to the fear and declare instead the promises of God over my life.
In many, many situations in my life previously, when things have gone awry and I have felt unable to cope, I have blamed God, or pleaded with him to change my circumstances. I have worried, panicked and tried to make better decisions or change something about the way I practice my faith. But the knowledge that God is, as the song declares, a ‘Good, Good Father’ engenders a deeper sense that, in the end, God is in control. I no longer need to govern the things that cause me stress and worry, because my Father, who loves me, tells me that worrying is about as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum. Or was that Baz Luhrmann? This is not about money or paying the bills. There is a much deeper, nuanced situation at work; one that Jesus is walking through alongside me, teaching, guiding, cajoling and consuming me.
I still don’t have a job, but I’m still not worried about whether, how or when I will get one, or if not how my family will afford to survive. I have been blessed beyond measure in the last 2 months since I stopped working. More time with my family, the introduction of a new member in the form of Amos and time to be still and listen to God about his plans for me. Almost as an aside, since we made a decision to trust God, and took a physical step of faith to do so, He has not failed to meet each and every one of our financial needs as well. We have received gifts from various, mostly unexpected sources amounting to almost twice as much as I would have earned in my previous job in the same timeframe. We are not especially holy or deserving of God’s favour (you only have to spend a day as a fly on the wall in our house to see that) but if there is one thing I love about the Gospel of Jesus, it is that his love, grace and favour are freely available to even the worst of the losers, misfits and screw-ups. He loves to get his hands dirty and walk through our mess with us and if he can do it for me, he can do it for anybody.